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Five songs for mourning the end of summer

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The party is over. But have no fear; here are five carefully selected tunes to play while you quietly weep into your warm piña colada.

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

“On the Beach” – Neil Young

“On the Beach” – Neil Young

With its bizarre release history, its somber lyrical preoccupations, its beachy b-side, its meticulously cryptic cover, its inexplicable name-dropping of Nevil Shute’s novel, and its consistent excellence, Neil Young’s “On the Beach” has stoked much ado in rock nerdom through the ages. A flawless record it is not, though its enduring mystique renders it the most fascinating relic of Young’s immaculate 70’s run.

On the Beach is one emotional affair, the title track brilliantly expressing the existential hell of stardom. “I need a crowd of people/ But I can’t face them day to day,” Young whines. A song concerning the destitution of attention-mongering, “On the Beach” is essential listening as the beach-ready abs you cultivated gradually diminish.

 

Photo Courtesy of Stonesthrow.com

Photo Courtesy of Stonesthrow.com

“Sadness Hides the Sun” – Anika

“Sadness Hides the Sun” – Anika

The 1983 documentary “Mutiny” follows a Berlin recording session of proto-goth band The Birthday Party. They slink around vampire-like, looking as strung out as they surely were. The studio is cold, industrial and drenched in sterile light. “Mutiny” is unsettling, and I imagine Berlin was like this in the 80’s.

Replete with spooky atmospherics and reverb galore, Anika’s self-titled debut sounds like the Berlin of “Mutiny.” Though Anika is certainly a nostalgic homage to bygone bleakness, the album achieves uniqueness through its ubiquitous quirks — namely a predisposition towards dub and girl-pop.

Anika’s “Sadness Hides the Sun,” a cover of a tune off a compilation hideously titled Folk Rock and Faithful: Dream Babes Vol. 1, shares little with the gaudy original. Anika’s “Sadness” is all plodding bass, lurching organ and deadpan vocal stylings, beginning with some colossally monotonous lyric-reading: “Summer is over/ And winter is here.” Indeed!

 

Photo courtesy of Nichollas Harrison

Photo courtesy of Nichollas Harrison

“Authentic Celestial Music” – Dirty Three

“Authentic Celestial Music” – Dirty Three
Dirty Three’s “Ocean Songs” fulfills the aspirations of its nautical conceit more so than similarly themed records, even Herbie Hancock’s jazzterpiece “Maiden Voyage.” “Ocean Songs” finds the Dirty Three gloriously successful, with violinist Warren Ellis at top form. “Authentic Celestial Music” commences drearily, but as the breezy drumming builds into meat-and-potatoes rocking, and the meandering guitar follows suit, the whole shebang snowballs toward hopeful defiance, and the clouds part.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com

“West Palm Beach”/”Gulf Shores” – Palace Music (Will Oldham)

Will Oldham’s “Lost Blues and Other Songs” harbors a spectacular one-two wallop of eerie excellence: the haunting “West Palm Beach,” followed by the equally compelling “Gulf Shores.” Both mellow rockers wistfully explore summertime merriment through the lens of Oldham’s Gothic fixations. “West Palm Beach” opens declaring the curative powers of oceanfront recreation, but quickly descends into phantasmagorical realms inhabited by grandmas, ghosts and weirdness. In an interview concerning this lyrical enigma, Oldham explained it as an articulation of the “fantasy and magic [of a] place where you do not live all the time.” Alas: summer.

The other Floridian tune of this musical power-couple, “Gulf Shores,” taps into the collective conscious of summertime, conjuring images of cold and fruity drinks, starfish, frolicking in the sand and juxtaposing them alongside lines featuring enough body-horror to tickle David Cronenberg: death by thirst, circles under eyes, wasting away, tan-resistant skin. The lap steel guitar accompaniment aides the song’s ghost-ship aesthetic.

 

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

“Beautiful” – From Sunday in the Park with George

Stephen Sondheim’s classic high-concept musical “Sunday in the Park with George” can’t help itself: alongside self-consciously pointillist musical experimentations sit ethereal melodic motifs. Unifying the musical’s modernist-spazz storytelling is a tender, humanist pulse. Even avant-garde fancies can’t obscure Sondheim’s genius.

“Beautiful,” a duet with George and his mother, begins as she laments the park changing: the replacement of a tree with a tower. George responds, “All things are beautiful,” and, “Pretty isn’t beautiful/Pretty is what changes/ What the eye arranges/ is what is beautiful.” They sing of Sundays disappearing and George looks up from his sketchbook and beseeches his mother. “Look,” he pleads, “look.”  As our leisurely Sundays give way to hectic weekdays, as the life and warmth of summer turns cold and withers, let us remember that there is much beauty to extract from all things if we simply look. Really look.

 

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